The Fountainhead Essay Contest
Contra Costa Association of Realtors Scholarship
Swiss Scholarship Fund
A. W. Bodine-Sunkist Memorial
U.S. Bank Scholarship Program
The Drive to Learn Scholarship
We are joined by many people from our community, colleges, and your school who believe in you.
We believe in your choice of a career that will provide you fulfillment.
We believe in your choice of an educational plan that will both enlighten you as well as prepare you for a career and employment.
We believe in your determination and hard work to define and achieve your own idea of success.
This guide is for you, when you're ready to make the informed choices that determine your future. It is one of many resources that may help you. Feel free to call on any of us, your counselors, college staff, or family. We will be happy to answer your questions.
Your success is our goal.
Step 1: Knowing What You Want
Step 2: Gathering Information
Step 3: Choosing a College Campus
Step 4: Requesting Information
Step 5: Completing the Application
Step 6: Applying for Financial Aid
Step 7: Tips on Writing the Personal Essay for College
Before you apply to college, you need to know what you want out of college.
I. Know Yourself - these questions you must answer for yourself.
- What are the most important things in my life?
- What do I like doing that may lead to job satisfaction?
- What special talents and skills do I like using and like developing?
- Where do I perform/work comfortably and to my fullest potential?
- Do I prefer working with people, data or things? Is there a combination of those three that I prefer?
- What experiences do I have that I would like to build on?
- What are my strengths and abilities now?
- What level of responsibility and salary do I want?
II. Know Your Choices - these questions you may answer alone, or with the help of a counselor, teacher, librarian, career center staff or family member.
- What careers are open to me and meet my interests and values?
- What training/education is required for my career choice?
- What is recommended for advancement in this field?
- What does the job market predict for the years following my graduation?
- Who do I know that is in this field, that could show me the day-to-day operations and answer a few questions?
- What steps do I take to be "on track" with the training required?
- What is a plan of action to reach my career?
III. Know the facts -
- You will eventually have to work.
- People who graduate from college earn more money. In 2005, a person with a bachelor's degree earned 37 percent more than a person with a high school diploma. A master's degree provided even more earning power—almost double the earning power of a high school diploma alone. (Source: U.S. Bureau of the Census, Current Population Survey 2004 Annual Social & Economic Supplement, March 2005.)
- If you want to be part of a dynamic new economy, you'll need college. Government projections say that jobs requiring an associate's degree or more will make up 76 percent of the fastest growing occupations between 2004-2014. (Source U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.)
Print this out and check when completed.
__ 1. Collect information on as many colleges and careers as might interest you. Read college guides and request college catalogs. Talk to college representatives, counselors, college alumni, teachers, recruiters.
__ 2. Check your resources with yourself, family, friends, and counselors. Consider your ability to pay for tuition and living expenses. Should you live at home? Can you get scholarships? (Many colleges offer scholarships and loans for those who need them. See Step VI, financial aid).
__ 3. Assess your academic record. Analyze your transcript with a counselor or college representative. Check to see if you have fulfilled all the college requirements.
__ 4. List several colleges you will seriously consider. In picking these colleges consider the factors mentioned in 1-3. Select those colleges that fit your needs, academic achievement, and budget.
__ 5. Find out what you need to do before applying. Check on the tests you need to take and other documents you need to have.
__ 6. Write out your plan of action for the next year.
__ 7. Share your choices with family and friends. See what they think.
HOW TO FIND OUT ABOUT COLLEGES
a. Visit your public library. Ask to see college guides such as Barron's Guide to Colleges.
b. Search the Internet. Most colleges and universities have home pages on the Internet. You can find out about entrance requirements, cost, financial aid, scholarships, housing, geographic location, size, majors, student life, and you can even apply to college via the Web.
c. Email or write to colleges to ask for college catalogs, pamphlets, and applications.
d. Listen to school announcements for college recruiter visits. Attend recruiting meetings and talk individually with recruiter.
e. Talk to your school counselor.
f. Ask adults about the colleges they went to. They can provide good personal views about different colleges.
g. Call the college alumni associations to see if you can talk to an alumni living near your area.
h. If possible, visit the college campuses.
1. Does the college offer a good program in your area of interest?B. Geographic Location
2. Is the faculty qualified, friendly and concerned?
3. Does it offer an alternative program which would interest you?
1. How is the climate? Is it located in an urban or rural area?C. Type and Size
2. How far is it from home? Will travel costs present a problem?
3. What is the local community like?
1. Is it coeducational or a men's or women's college?D. Admission Requirements
2. Is it church-related? Does this matter to you?
3. How big is the college? What is the size of the freshman class?
4. How large are the classes?
5. What is the ethnic breakdown and male/female ratio of the student population?
6. Are you comfortable in this environment?
7. What is the student/faculty ratio?
1. What specific high school subjects, grade point average, and entrance tests are required?E. Costs and Financial Aid
2. What are the application deadlines?
3. Educational Opportunity Program availability?
1. How much does the institution cost per year? (tuition, fees, campus housing, books and supplies, transportation, etc.)F. Housing
2. Is financial aid available? The more expensive schools usually offer the greater amount of financial aid.
1. Does the campus provide residence facilities and what is the deadline to apply?
2. Are there restrictions on off-campus housing for freshmen?
3. What is dorm life like? Is it coeducational?
4. Are there different types of meal plans available and what are the dining services like? (ie. how's the food?)
Visit the campuses you are interested in. If you plan in advance, you can receive a campus tour, talk to faculty, staff and students, sit in on a class, and maybe even stay in a dorm. Explore all options, listen to the information and suggestions of others, and remember, YOU know best what is important to YOU in this decision. Don't forget! most colleges have a WEB page on the Internet.
(This step can be completed via letters and emails by the end of your junior year)
After you decide on the colleges you want to seriously consider, you should write to them to request information, application forms and mention specific questions or concerns. Most of the information needed is on colleges’ websites, but if you would like any additional information in paper, request it via e-mail or letters. NOTE: You may want to contact universities and colleges via email in order to get a quicker response.
Below is a sample email to request information.
Subject: Info Request
My name is Carmen Rodriguez. I am highly interested in applying to CSUEB as an undergraduate with an intended major in Sociology. I would like to be directed to or receive information in regards to your undergraduate admissions process, EOP, Housing as well as Sociology Department. Any information is useful and will be appreciated.
2490 Maple St.
Oakland, CA 94618
Financial Aid Office
Oakland, CA 94613
To Whom It May Concern:
I am a sophomore at Laney College and am very interested in transferring to Mills College in the fall of _____. I will need financial assistance.
Please send me any information you feel will be helpful and all grants, workstudy and loans.
Thank you for your time and assistance.
Carmen S. Rodriguez
2490 E. Maple St.
Oakland, CA 94618
1. Allow yourself sufficient time to fill out the application form. A "rush job" results in careless errors. Work in a quiet place alone, where you can give the job the consideration it deserves.
2. Read all directions carefully, before you start, and follow them accurately. Make a copy of the blank application and use it as a rough draft.
3. Read all questions on the form and think about your answers before you begin to write.
4. Write all answers to essay questions on scratch paper first. Ask your English teacher to proofread your rough draft before writing it on the application form.
5. Make your answers truthful, specific and concise. Make sure to answer the question.
6. If possible, type your application. The appearance of your application will influence the Admissions Committee.
If you write your application, print it legibly and use blank ink preferably. Use "White Out" to correct mistakes.
7. Plan your use of page space. If a small space is provided for a long answer, use the space above and below the line, but keep all the writing the same size; OR write "see attached sheet" in the space and write your answer on a separate page.
8. Avoid errors. Use a dictionary to avoid spelling errors. Do not cross out or have inkblots on your application, many colleges will not send second application forms.
9. Answer all questions. Do not leave blank spaces. If a question does not apply to you, place a dash (-), N/A (not applicable) or zero (0) in the blank (regarding to financial questions).
10. Make sure you keep track of your test scores. You are responsible for making sure that the testing agencies (College Board or ACT) report your test scores directly to the Admissions Office at each college to which you apply.
11. If an application fee is required, enclose a check or money order with your application. Write your name and social security number on your check or money order. If you cannot afford the fee, find out if the college accepts fee waivers. You may obtain fee waivers from your counselor. See your counselor well ahead of the deadline.
12. Ask someone to double-check your application for possible errors.
13. Be sure to sign your application. Without your signature, your application is not complete and may not be processed. Some applications require your name on every page of the application and essay.
14. Make photocopies of all applications and obtain a "Certificate of Mailing" from the post office, get a receipt with the date on which you mailed the application. Affix adequate postage to the envelope. Do not use certified or registered mail or an overnight express delivery service to send your application. This will delay processing of your application. Keep the copies and certificate receipts all in one safe place, in a folder or file.
15. Mail applications as early as possible during the appropriate filing period.
16. Within four weeks of mailing your application, you should receive acknowledgement that your application form and fees were received. If you do not receive an acknowledgement, call the admissions office and follow-up with your application.
17. If admitted, most colleges will require a final, official high school transcript (showing your date of graduation). You must arrange to have it sent to the Admissions Office where you plan to enroll. Be sure to request your transcript at least three weeks before it is due.
• Federal Pell Grants are the largest source of free money for college from the government. These need-based grants of between $400 and $4,050 a year are awarded to every undergraduate who qualifies and hasn’t already earned a bachelor’s degree. Pell Grants can be used to pay for tuition, fees and living expenses at any qualifying college, including a California Community College.
• Federal Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG), if you’re eligible for a federal Pell Grant, are a U.S. citizen and successfully complete a “rigorous” high school program, you may qualify for an Academic Competitiveness Grant of up to $750 for your first year and up to $1,300 for the second year, in addition to your Pell Grant.
• National SMART Grant provides up to $4,000 for your junior and senior years of college if you’re eligible for a Pell Grant, are a U.S. citizen and are majoring in physical, life or computer sciences, math, technology or engineering, or in certain foreign languages.
• Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG) are awarded to undergraduate students with exceptional financial need, between $100 and $4,000 a year. Priority is given to students receiving a Pell Grant. They don’t need to be paid back. Unlike federal Pell Grants, funds for these grants are limited, so there’s no guarantee you’ll receive one. Also, keep in mind not all colleges offer them.
• Federal Work-Study allows you to earn a portion of your financial aid package through work. Your college will assist you in locating a part-time job on or off campus, usually related to your studies or career plans, or in community service. You'll earn at least the federal minimum wage.
• Federal Perkins Loans are low-interest loans for students with exceptional financial need. These loans are made by colleges using mostly federal funds and have 0 percent interest during school. You’ll have up to nine months after school before you must start repaying your loan at 5 percent interest. Depending on when you apply, your financial need and available funds, you can borrow up to $4,000 for each year of undergraduate study and up to $6,000 a year if you’re a graduate or professional student. Funding is limited, however, and not all colleges offer these loans.
• Federal Stafford Loans are the most common source of student loan funds and are for undergraduate, graduate, vocational, and professional students at all types of colleges. There are two types of Stafford loans: subsidized and unsubsidized. Your FAFSA will establish your eligibility for both. You may receive both types of loans at the same time. The interest rate is fixed at 6.8 percent for the life of your loan. After you graduate, leave school or enroll less than half time, you’ll have a six-month grace period before your first loan payment is due. Typically, you’ll have up to 10 years to repay, depending on the amount borrowed. If you’ll be going on to graduate school, you may request an in-school deferment and postpone repayment until you finish graduate school or drop below half-time enrollment.
• Subsidized Stafford Loans are based solely on financial need. The federal government pays the interest while you’re in college and during the six-month grace period after you graduate, leave school or enroll less than half time—you’ll make no loan payments until your grace period ends. To qualify, you must meet all the requirements for federal aid and have your eligibility for a Pell Grant determined.• Unsubsidized Stafford Loans are for all eligible students, regardless of income or assets. You must meet the same requirements as those for the subsidized Stafford loan, except for demonstrating financial need. You’re responsible for paying all the interest on the loan, but you can defer interest payments while in school. If you do, the interest will be added to the amount you borrowed when repayment begins and future interest will be based on the higher loan amount. It’s to your advantage to pay the interest while you’re in college because you’ll pay less interest in the long run. To learn more, go to www.studentaid.ed.gov
• Federal PLUS Loans (for Parents of dependent students or Graduate Students): Federal Parent PLUS loans enable your parents or stepparents to borrow up to the total cost of your undergraduate study, minus any other aid you may receive. These loans aren’t based on your family’s income or assets. If you’re a graduate or professional student, you can take out a Federal Graduate PLUS loan to borrow up to the total cost of your education, less any other aid you receive, including any federal Stafford loans. To apply for a PLUS loan, you must submit the FAFSA, meet credit eligibility requirements and complete a PLUS loan application. The interest rate for PLUS loans is fixed at 7.9 percent or 8.5 percent, depending on the college. Interest accrues from the date loan funds are first disbursed until the loan is repaid in full. You may also have to pay an origination fee and a federal default fee. For more information, contact your college’s financial aid office.
• There are many other types of financial assistance available from the Federal Government such as aid for Veterans and/or their dependents, loan forgiveness programs, and national service programs like Americorp. To learn more, visit: www.studentaid.ed.gov
• California Community Colleges Fee Waiver (BOG). You won’t pay any enrollment fees at a California Community College if you’re a California resident and are eligible for a Cal Grant or any other type of need-based financial aid, if you receive CalWORKs/TANF, SSI or General Assistance payments (or if you’re a dependent student and one of your parents receives this assistance), or if your total family income is within the income standards. For more information on the Board of Governors’ Enrollment Fee Waiver (known as the BOG Fee Waiver) or the income standards, go to www.icanaffordcollege.com.
• Extended Opportunity Programs and Services (EOPS) provide grants, counseling and tutorial services to low-income, educationally disadvantaged students. To learn more, contact your college’s EOPS or financial aid office.
• In addition, California Community Colleges have other support programs that assist with counseling, transportation, textbooks and supplies, job placement, and child care available for single parent students and those receiving welfare or CalWORKs benefits.
• California State University campuses offer the State University Grant to California residents with financial need. The amount of the award varies according to the priorities of each campus, but it generally covers at least a portion of the systemwide State University Fee. For the neediest students who don’t have a Cal Grant, the State University Grant covers at least the full State University Fee. To learn more, go to www.csumentor.edu or www.calstate.edu.
• Educational Opportunity Program at CSU campuses provides grants of up to $2,000 a year, counseling and tutorial services to low-income and educationally disadvantaged undergraduates. There’s even a summer program to strengthen your math, reading or other skills. To learn more, contact your college’s EOP or financial aid office.
• More University of California students receive grant funding through the University Student Aid Program than through any other state or federal program. Undergraduate awards are given to financially eligible students who are unable to cover the full costs of attending a UC campus through a combination of a parent contribution (if applicable), grants from federal or state sources, and a reasonable level of student earnings and borrowing.
• Educational Opportunity Program at UC campuses provides grants, counseling and tutorial services to low-income and educationally disadvantaged undergraduates. To learn more, contact your college’s EOP or financial aid office.
• Many private organizations such as clubs, your parents' employers, labor unions, corporations, religious institutions, and private individuals do award scholarships and loans. Check with your counselor and parents for such opportunities.
• Use scholarship search engines on the internet, but beware of scholarship scams and fraud!
• Private Loans: If you still fall short after exhausting all your own resources, federal loans and other financial aid, you may want to consider a private loan. Private loans may carry higher interest rates and have fewer benefits than federal loans. At a growing number of schools, private loans have been filling an important need in their financial aid offers. Contact your college’s financial aid office for more information.
• It’s never too early to explore all financial aid options from federal, state, school and private sources.
• Some scholarships are for specific grade levels as young as elementary or middle school. Go to libraries, counselors, teachers and other adults to inquire about such scholarships.
• During the college admissions application process, find out what each school requires to apply for financial aid. Even at similar colleges in California, requirements, forms, and deadlines are not the same. Schools outside the state will have their own financial aid application process.
• If mailing important letters or forms, ask the post office for a certificate of mailing. Print your name and ID number at the top of each document and keep copies of everything!
• Be prepared to supply additional materials, such as your family's income tax returns (IRS Form 1040), directly to the college or university. For more information please check the Fund Your Future Workbook published by the California Student Aid Commission and EdFund, from which the information in this resource guide was extracted.
KEEP YOUR TYPED ESSAY TO LESS THAN TWO PAGES DOUBLE SPACED.
CHOOSE ONE ASPECT OF YOURSELF AS THE MAIN THEME OR FOCUS OF YOUR ESSAY. For example, you may choose to focus on one of the questions below while giving mention to each of the other relevant topics.
LET A PARENT, TEACHER, OR COLLEGE REPRESENTATIVE READ YOUR ESSAY TO GIVE YOU SUGGESTIONS ON HOW TO IMPROVE IT. This way, a trusted adult can tell you whether you should include more information or delete unnecessary ones. Ask them to proofread for grammar. Grammar and spelling mistakes do serious damage to the impression you make.
Below is a list of suggested topics about yourself that you should include in your essay.
What are your goals? Why do you choose these goals? i.e. If you want to be an engineer, what experiences inspired you to want to be an engineer?
Why do you choose to apply to this college? i.e. You may apply to UC Berkeley because they have the best engineering program in the country.
What are your values and philosophy about education? What are the basis for these values? i.e. Do you value education as a way to expose yourself to many experiences? to improve yourself? to gain a skill? to establish a good career?
Is there one or two accomplishment(s), either in school or outside of school that you are particularly proud of? What have you learned from these experience(s)? i.e. sports activities, student government, class projects, work experience, community work, etc.
Have you a system of organization and time-management so that you can succeed both academically and socially? i.e. Have you trained yourself to schedule your time well so that you have time for studying as well as social and recreational activities?
What difficulties or disadvantages have you faced in your life and how have you overcome them? i.e. Are you from a low income family and you had to work? Are you an immigrant and had to overcome language difficulties?
What is one area in which you are weak and how have you or do you plan to overcome that weakness? Do not dwell on this point: keep it very brief.
If you are applying for the educational Opportunity Program (EOP), tell whether you need financial aid and whether either of your parents graduated from college.
INTRODUCTION: Avoid meaningless intros. Get right to the point. Start off immediately to talk about your goals and reasons you want to attend the college.
1ST BODY PARAGRAPH: Should contain the most important idea you want to convey. Should state the main reason that the college should accept you.
2ND BODY PARAGRAPH: Should have smooth transitions between paragraphs. Transitions should tie ideas in each paragraph together into one coherent essay.
3RD BODY PARAGRAPH: After outlining your more important ideas in your previous paragraphs, this is a good place to start putting in relevant details that you have not yet mentioned.
4TH PARAGRAPH: Should tie up loose ends. This is where you should include details necessary to apply for EOP and financial aid.
CONCLUSION: Sum up the main reasons you mentioned of why you should be accepted.